Owner’s treatment of previous manager Neil Redfearn was poor
11 June ~ The end of Massimo Cellino's suspension as president and the appointment of Uwe Rösler as manager should have been a cause for celebration at Leeds, but the controversies of last season will still be ringing in the ears of United fans as the club move into the new campaign.
Rösler may prove a shrewd appointment by Cellino, and with any luck an improvement on David Hockaday and Darko Milanic, who lasted 102 days between them, armed with the advantage that most Leeds fans will at least have heard of him before being thrust into the job. The forcing out of his predecessor, Neil Redfearn, however, will still weigh heavily on the club in the minds of most supporters.
Left unmolested by Cellino's withdrawal as a "significant figure" at the club following his temporary disqualification as owner, Redfearn and his assistant Steve Thompson lead Leeds to their most impressive spell of last season, securing victories over Fulham and Ipswich in an unbeaten run that stretched through March.
As has been traditional for Leeds in their 11 seasons outside of the top flight, however, there were bad decisions made at boardroom level just as things began to look promising on the pitch. Thompson was sacked by the director of football, Nicola Salerno, with next to no justification, the club releasing a derisory two line statement to support a move possibly motivated by the pair's refusal to adhere to demands to drop striker Mirco Antenucci, lest he score the 12 goals he required to earn a contract extension.
Redfearn was then left further isolated by the "injured six" fiasco, as Cellino signings pulled out of his squad hours before a game against Charlton, several of them suspected of protesting a lack of playing time. A personal attack was the president's response. His assertion that "this looks like a fight between manager Neil Redfearn and the ownership of the club" made clear his intentions to relieve the former academy boss of his responsibilities as manager amid deteriorating results.
There are certainly signs the club could now be heading in the right direction. Many of the clubs youth players, including Lewis Cook and Kalvin Phillips, have seen their contracts extended; hanging on to to the academy's other leading lights in Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor will undoubtedly be crucial to the success of Leeds' season. Meanwhile, Cellino has admitted mistakes were made in last season's transfer windows on the basis that he was "in a rush”, as the Daily Mirror reported it.
Rösler’s favoured 4-3-3 formation may also see investment at last in wide players, with defensive-midfielder Cook being shunted out wide at times last season indicative of the lack of width in the team. The failure to tie down Sol Bamba to a permanent deal is worrisome, while the release of barnstorming fan favourite Rodolph Austin leaves a need for a combative midfield player. However, links to Uruguay's Álvaro Pereira appear overly optimistic (quite how the club would go about convincing the former World Cup semi-finalist to ignore Galatasaray's interest and Champions League football for away days to Middlesborough is anyone's guess).
However, and despite the bitter taste left by the treatment of Redfearn, Rösler's stated aim of a top ten finish as a platform to build on highlighted his nous at this level, tempering the expectations of fans who have had hopes of a return to the Premier League dashed all too often. It remains to be seen whether Cellino can stop interfering long enough for the new manager to make an impact. Tom Lewis